May 29, 2000
Eric Turner, one of the best football players in UCLA history, died Sunday at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks. He was 31. The cause of death appeared to be complications of abdominal cancer, according to Craig Stevens, medical examiner at the Ventura County Coroner's office.
"Eric was certainly one of the top players we have had during my 21 years at UCLA," said UCLA assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Bob Field, who served as defensive coordinator throughout Turner's career and has been at UCLA since 1978. "He worked hard in practice every day and he was a great role model for our younger players. But, even more importantly, he was always upbeat, pleasant and fun to coach. This is a tragic loss for anyone who knew Eric."
Turner was UCLA's starting free safety in 1988, 1989 and 1990 and earned All-America honors as a senior. He followed in the footsteps of Kenny Easley (1977-80), Don Rogers (1981-83) and James Washington (1984-87), helping make the UCLA free safety position one of the most recognized in college football.
He still ranks fourth in career tackles at UCLA with 369, trailing only three-time consensus All-America linebacker Jerry Robinson (468), Rogers (405) and Easley (374), also a three-time consensus All-American. He is also tied for fourth with 14 career interceptions, trailing Easley (19), All-America cornerback Carlton Gray (16) and Washington (15).
Turner joined the Bruin program in the Fall of 1986 following a great prep career at Ventura (CA) High School. After redshirting his first season, he was a key reserve in 1987, making 48 tackles and three interceptions and earned first-team Freshman All-America honors from Football News.
The following year, he moved into the starting lineup. In mid-October, the Bruins became the nation's No. 1 team for the first time since 1967 and finished the season 10-2. Turner earned first-team Sophomore All-America honors from Football News and ranked third on the team with 87 tackles and three interceptions.
As a junior in 1989, he ranked second on the team with 141 tackles and led the squad with three interceptions while earning honorable mention All-America acclaim.
As a senior in 1990, Turner earned first-team All-America honors and was selected UCLA's Most Valuable Player on defense after leading the Bruins with 93 tackles and five interceptions. His late interception at Washington set-up Brad Daluiso's game-winning field goal with 10 seconds remaining as the Bruins upset the No. 2-ranked Huskies, 25-22 on November 10.
Following his UCLA career, Turner was the No. 2 pick in the 1991 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. It was the highest selection ever for a defensive back. He played nine seasons in the NFL with the Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders. He made the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1996 and tied for the league lead in interceptions in 1994 (nine).